RSU Administrative Employee of the Year 2019 – Rolands Bļujus
‘I was very surprised about winning the award,’ Rolands Bļujus admits frankly. Bļujus is the E-studies Manager at the Department of Study Process Quality Analysis at the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Centre for Educational Growth (CEG). This year Bļujus received the RSU Administrative Employee of the Year award for his responsiveness, enthusiasm and long-term contribution to the development of the e-studies environment. 26 employees were nominated in this category.
‘I'm certainly happy that my work has been appreciated,’ he continues. ‘I like that I can share my experience. My greatest joy is to see that others follow my suggestions when modernising study courses, for example.’
For seven years already Bļujus has been responsible for the e-studies platform, for providing training for academic staff and preparing study materials at RSU.
As his colleagues wrote in the motivation for the nomination ‘Rolands Bļujus is a very responsive colleague. He will never deny someone a consultation. He's always available when something is not clear or there's any kind of problem with the e-studies platform. His classes on e-studies are clear and informative.’
How did you start your career at RSU?
I have a degree in electrical engineering and telecommunications. I became interested in creating websites already when I was a student and I'm still doing it. I assume that it was this hobby that helped me get the job with e-studies at the RSU Study Department. The e-studies platform was still incomplete back then. Creating study courses required a lot more work. Nowadays, e-studies are becoming an increasingly integral part of the study process – a lecturer can use it to post study materials, organise exams and post final grades. Back when I started we synchronised e-studies with the Student Information System together with the IT Department. This allowed us to automate the creation of e-study courses, to modify them to each different study programme and to create access to these courses.
I have been teaching about how to best utilise e-studies since my first day at RSU. As the system improved, the number of active users increased. Since the university wanted make use of the opportunities the platform provides as comprehensively as possible, I started to conduct training courses more often. I became a lecturer on CEG courses, held introductory lectures on e-courses for students and taught lecturers how to create a structure for study courses, how to upload different materials (digital tests, exercises) and how to post grades. I also started working on the design in cooperation with the IT Department. Now I teach how to use other tools as well like the presentation programme PPT and freeware IT tools, for example.
What is the e-studies environment at RSU like compared to other universities? Are we keeping up with progress?
We are definitely leaders in terms of innovation and the implementation of various modern technologies. We were among the first universities that started using the plagiarism detection e-tool Turnitin as well as the modern and interactive lecture recording and streaming tool Panopto. I think that both the e-studies and the regular study environments at RSU are innovative both technically and visually. RSU has every right to be proud of its well-equipped rooms with slide shows and interactive whiteboards, for example. More and more information systems are being linked – timetables and final exam grades from the e-studies platform are available in the new app for students, myRSU. This ensures a faster and more comfortable circulation of information.
What has been the greatest challenge that you've encountered so far?
When working with people it's sometimes difficult to manage their emotions. I am often the first one that people address when they have problems, or when something is not working properly. This means that I constantly have to improve my communication skills and ability to listen and solve problems peacefully.
I want to encourage lecturers to learn about the e-studies and other systems as comprehensively as possible, because it would make their work considerably easier. I urge them not to hesitate to ask for explanations. There are many advantage to using these systems: they save time, there is less human error involved, and they help ensure that exams are of a better quality.
What are your plans for the future?
I like my current work. I especially like working with people. I like to learn and discover new things myself. The best way to do so is by teaching others. While I am teaching about e-studies, I am constantly searching for additional information. As a result I have come to understand nuances better.
I have several ideas for improving our information systems. When I worked on organising Research Week, for example, I understood how to optimise the thesis submission process. I also have ideas on how to make e-grades more user-friendly. I believe that a system is good if it's user-friendly and easy to administer.
Your work is exciting, but do you have any hobbies?
One of my hobbies is to make websites, but you have to spend a lot of time in front of a computer. I definitely need something more active. I get a lot of energy from playing sports – football and running. It exhausts you physically, but charges you emotionally.
I am happy to spend my spare time playing sports with my colleagues. We have a wonderful staff – it motivates me to go to work with even greater joy. This year we participated in the Tet Riga Marathon for the first time. I and other CEG colleagues decided that we were going to run the 10 km distance as a part of the RSU team. We agreed that we would all run together no matter how fast we were individually – my colleagues' friendly support motivated me to stay on track and finish. I also participated in the RSU sports and talent festival in Taurene and I'm going to participate in the entrepreneur sports game event BIZFEST for the third time this year. Last year we got very good results – our RSU team came in fourth. We hope to keep our placement this year.
Team spirit is useful in other activities too. I have donated blood several times with both my previous colleagues from the Study Department and my current colleagues from CEG on RSU Health Day. Some colleagues might be afraid to do it alone, but the fear fades way when we do it together.
The most important value for me is family – my wife and two daughters. My children give me positive emotions every day, especially when I go to the kindergarten after an exhausting day and my children run towards me with sincere joy.